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RV Prospector—Winter planning for spring prospecting

Last year, many RVtravel.com readers showed interest in prospecting while RVing about the country. The focus then was on essential equipment needed for mineral prospecting, places to sample, regulations to follow, and some great tools to make the work easier and more fun.

As the new year opens, many of us are using the winter months to plan for spring and maybe venturing a little deeper into gold country while on the road. If, while RVing and prospecting last year, you found an area where you found promising gold or other mineral deposits, you might be considering whether to stake an official mining claim. Last year, we delved into the basic requirements of how to stake and record a mining claim. Starting this year, let’s look at ways to determine whether you can legally stake a location and whether there might already be a valid mining claim in that area.

We’ll focus on two methods of researching mining claims in specific areas: The Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mining claims database, and an excellent labor-saving commercial product, Gold Maps Online™.

BLM mining claims database resource for prospecting

First, let’s look at the free public BLM mining claims database resource, the Mineral and Land Records System (MLRS). The MLRS was introduced in early 2021 to replace the clunky and quirky Legacy Rehost Cases Recordation database (LR2000). The old LR2000 was a valuable tool for prospectors to ferret out information on active and abandoned claims. Still, it was so cumbersome and counterintuitive that many prospectors threw up their hands and gave up trying to use it. The MLRS promises to be a significant improvement. The new system is map-based and allows the user to see a wide geographic area and zoom in to see the status of mining claims. It is a far superior and more user-friendly system than LR2000.

Moreover, it is a significant improvement over the BLM mining claims records in place up until about the mid-1990s, which were on microfiche and required claim status research at the BLM office. The functionality and practical use of the MLRS are still relatively complex. Still, Chris Ralph published an excellent treatise on its technical details and user interface in the June 2022 issue of ICMJs Prospecting and Mining Journal. I encourage RV prospectors interested in establishing a mining claim on federal land to read the article.

Gold Maps Online is a good resource

Gold Maps Online is a commercial application I use many times yearly. I chose Gold Maps because I use it and am familiar with it, as well as because it is overlayed onto Google Earth to show precise location and coordinates, as well as up-to-date correlation with the BLM MLRS claims data. There are numerous mining claims applications available in the marketplace. The Prospecting and Mining Journal publishes dozens of ads for maps and many other products and gadgets of interest to the prospector.

In a word, Gold Maps shows active mining claims, expired or abandoned claims, as well as areas of no mining claims. Our primary interest is in active claims to avoid working on or attempting to claim ground already subject to a current valid claim. However, instantly checking an area of interest from the comfort of home or RV is very helpful to the prospector. Seeing old, expired claims on the map is helpful, too, in case you run into claim markers on land in which you are interested. It could be that the claim has expired, and no one has taken down the claim stakes.

Gold Maps currently identifies more than 438,870 active placer and lode claims and over 3 million abandoned and expired claims on public lands in twelve western states.

Once you have discovered gold in your travels and decide to return to that area regularly, you may want to take your RV prospecting to the next level by staking your claim to the ground. Thorough research is critical to doing it legally and avoiding the disappointment of discovering too late that your favorite prospecting and mining site is already under claim.

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